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Should Military Service Earn Non-citizen Veterans a Second Chance at Citizenship?

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By Debbie Gregory.

A baby born on U.S. soil is automatically granted U.S. citizenship. Another path to citizenship is through military service. In fact, joining the U.S. military has always been one of the fastest ways to get U.S. citizenship. But it doesn’t happen automatically. And unfortunately, veterans who did not go through the process of becoming citizens, if they get in trouble, can be deported.

This is a fact known all too well by Hector Barajas-Varela. Born in Mexico, the 39-year-old Army veteran came to the U.S. illegally when he was seven. Although he donned a U.S. military uniform and received an honorable discharge, Barajas-Varela never followed through on his naturalization paperwork.

In 2002, Barajas-Varela was deported after pleading guilty to felony charges resulting from issues with alcohol and drugs. He founded the Deported Veterans Support House, known as the Bunker, a shelter for former U.S. military servicemembers who find themselves in the same situation.

The Bunker offers assistance and support from fellow veterans and volunteers.

Miguel Gabriel Vazquez is one of two Vietnam War veterans who offer counseling at the Bunker. Vazquez, a trained counselor with a master’s degree in psychology, comes to the bunker once a week to do individual counseling.

“They all have PTSD whether diagnosed or not,” said Vazquez, who has not been deported but lives in Rosarita Beach, Mexico, where he moved to write a book on healing PTSD naturally. “These guys get all that plus the trauma of being deported.”

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is considering Barajas-Varela’s application after his crime — discharging a firearm — was reclassified and is no longer an aggravated felony.

Naturalization used to be part of basic training, but the laws changed. As a result, lots of green card holders went to Iraq and Afghanistan without becoming citizens.

U.S. immigration law states that non-citizens who commit serious crimes forfeit their right to remain in the country. Deported veterans and their advocates say those who wear the uniform should be treated as U.S. citizens: punished for any crimes they commit, but not deported.

Army Vet Uses Skills to Free Bald Eagle

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By Debbie Gregory.

A U.S. army veteran saved the life of a bald eagle by using a semi-automatic rifle and his sharp-shooting skills to free the bird, which was trapped in a tree.

Jason Galvin and his wife, Jackie, noticed the eagle ensnared in rope around its leg, hanging 70 feet above ground from a tree, near Rush City, Minnesota.

Galvin used a borrowed .22-caliber rifle with a scope to sever the four inch thick rope after firing 150 shots. Galvin never hit the eagle.

The bird tumbled 75 feet to the ground. The couple wrapped it in a blanket and took it to the University of Minnesota’s Raptor Center.

“We named the eagle Freedom and hope to be able to release him near his home once he is back to health!” Jackie Galvin wrote on Facebook.

Although Galvin was facing windy conditions which made the shot difficult, he was determined to free the bird.

“It was a good weekend for it to happen,” Galvin said. “Fourth of July, you know, that’s our bird. I can’t let it sit there.”

Since June 20, 1782, the bald eagle has been the emblem of the United States of America, chosen because of its long life, great strength and majestic looks, and also because it was then believed to exist only on this continent.

The Galvins initially called the police and fire departments after spotting the bird, but because it was so high up, the agencies were not able to help and “deemed this was going to be a loss.”

Before taking aim, Galvin also cleared his plan with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Phil Mohs, a conservation officer from the department, gave Galvin the go-ahead, believing the eagle would die in the tree if left alone.

The federally protected bird has been eating and drinking, although its long-term prognosis is unclear.

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